State of the State: Murphy paints rosy economic picture; others aren’t so sure

Bracken, Siekerka want more help for small business community

Gov. Phil Murphy suggested in his State of the State address Tuesday night that business is booming in New Jersey.

“Our state is growing again,” he said. “For years, we were fed a line that no one wanted to be part of our New Jersey family. But the truth is the exact opposite. Our population is growing. Our real estate market is strong. And we’re making more progress against property taxes than any administration before us.

“Through the policies we’ve put in place, and the community investments we’ve made, our administration has slowed the rate of property tax growth more than any of the previous four administrations — a record that includes four of the lowest year-over-year increases in property taxes on record.

State of emergency restored

Citing a need to better fight the impact of omicron variant, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that he is reinstating the Public Health Emergency by executive order.

The move was expected. It came a day after the Legislature opted not to extend his emergency powers.

Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, the public health emergency will expire after 30 days, unless it is renewed. The decision to renew will be made by the governor.

“The reality is this — we’re making New Jersey the place where businesses want to locate and families want to live. The Census counts it in black-and-white — while some states in our region lost population, New Jersey grew.”

Murphy said his policies have helped people get back to work.

“Many of our residents are getting back to work because of our direct and critical investments in tens of thousands of small businesses — $800 million for retail stores, restaurants, arts and cultural institutions, child care providers, and more — to ensure their survival through some very dark times,” he said.

And Murphy reiterated his promise to not raise taxes during his second term.

The reaction of the business community was mixed.

Tom Bracken, the head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said Murphy deserves credit for the state’s work fighting the pandemic, which has helped keep businesses open — after an initial shutdown of many.

Bracken, however, said more needs to be done for small business.

“The governor said small business is the backbone of New Jersey’s economy,” he said. “That backbone needs more help now as it deals with a pandemic going on 2 years old.

Michele Siekerka and Tom Bracken. (File photos)

“We must take action now to support the small businesses of our state or we will not be able to generate revenue for the programs the governor touted today.”

Michele Siekerka, the head of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, was more pointed in her wants.

“New Jersey businesses are still looking at nearly a $1 billion payroll tax increase, which started in late 2021 and will continue over the next two years, to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund,” she said.

“While federal recovery funds were not used to assist in the replenishment of that fund, as was done in most states, New Jersey still awaits the presentation of a comprehensive plan to use ARPA funds to help support pro-growth areas like workforce development, infrastructure and innovation, and to bring further support to small businesses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality, retail, manufacturing and health care sectors.

“Disappointingly, while businesses continue to struggle, our Legislature still made efforts to put bills on the governor’s desk that will impose even more burdens and costs on them.”

Bracken said struggling small businesses need more relief.

“We are disappointed that Gov. Murphy did not mention the scores of businesses still struggling and in desperate need of immediate help,” he said. “This is concerning to us, because the investments the governor cited may bring benefits in the long term, but our small businesses need help now. ”

Siekerka said it’s all about taxes.

“We have the highest corporate tax rate and highest property taxes in the nation,” she said. “Our income tax rates are among the highest, as well.

“This is a unique opportunity for our state to provide tax relief across the board so residents have more money in their pockets, so startups can launch here and so corporations can grow here.”